Back in 2020, a new band started making waves through the Southern Rock genre with the release of a self-titled EP…The Georgia Thunderbolts arrived with a bang.
That EP had a maturity and depth that belied the ages of these responsible (average age on release was twenty-two!) The five tracks on the EP now form the backbone of a full-length album called Can We Get A Witness.
The band are from Rome…in Georgia and, after meeting and starting a band at high school the five youngsters (well, they are to me) served their apprenticeship sharing stages with the likes of Blackberry Smoke, Black Stone Cherry, The Cadillac Three and the Kentucky Headhunters.
This album was almost ready to go and a tour to back it up when you know what happened and so they delayed the full album and titivated listeners with the EP. It was a digital release and so I am glad to be able to get the physical product at last, plus eight new tracks on this debut.
On hearing that, the influences are obvious…Hank Williams Jr, Neil Young, Little Feat and, inevitably, Lynyrd Skynyrd with welcome hints of Bad Co., The Allmans and, occasionally Blackfoot and Molly Hatchet. Importantly, the individuality of the writers shine through any comparison: although the last track does name check Tuesday’s Gone by Skynyrd, so at least they wear their heart on their necks…as in guitar. The ethos behind the band and their outlook is neatly summed up by drummer Bristol Perry: “It’s okay to be yourself. If you’re going through hard times, the music will always be there.” That happens to be similar to my own mantra and bodes well for them and us.
It opens with Take It Slow and leaves you in no doubt as to what is to come: howling harp heralds a rock song first and Southern second…more Crows than Skynyrd and with a short, purposely ‘faulty’ guitar solo that is an absolute treat that’s revisited at the close. Lend A Hand is heavy and bluesy with a great riff and the bass runs behind it all is just great. Think Thunder (without the bolts) mixed with The Answer; it has that bounce and celebratory feel that works really well and has a ‘standard (short) solo too. So You Wanna Change The World keeps the blues as its base to strengthen the Southern tropes that appear later. A short slide solo and the later picked solo both play cleverly with the melodies and could only be faulted by their duration. Looking For An Old Friend is apparently the first song the band ever wrote…acoustic opening leads to electric slide as they channel their love of Freebird, in a good way: OK, it may not be totally original in approach, but it is a damn example of Southern Rock with pace, heart and skill. Spirit Of A Workin’ Man is a pain to the working class wrapped up in a hefty, bluesy riff with Ash like interludes and even a touch of Neil Young (in a positive sense). Midnight Rider is The Allman Brothers song, and it is an interesting adaptation: it keeps the essence of the riff with a little more weight and the harmonies both vocally and guitar wise until, that is, a fiery solo adds extra colour…nice one. To prove they’re more than Southern cliche, the Andy Fraser penned, Frankie Miller song, Be Good To Yourself is like listening to an American version of a Faces/Free hybrid courtesy of Fraser’s writing and that is a compliment. (The original is on Miller’s very underrated Full House album from 1977.) Half Glass Woman is Southern blues with a staccato riff and harp backing, a fascinating guitar solo with switch play and a rhythm that won’t let go. Dancin’ With The Devil has no Cozy references…it’s a strong Southern rock song musically and lyrically with a a clever, complex and yet accessible bass, guitar and drum interplay. The not quite title, title track, Can I Get A Witness is another blues based rock song with a genius riff that has two elements that combine neatly to compliment the vocals and melody. Walk Tall Man shows Southern if that was performed by Bad Co. The riff powers the song to a join in chorus and, after a neat bridge, a great solo. It’s Alright does have the “All Right Now” lyric in the chorus, but it’s a neat bluesy, rock song with, yes, a Southern tinge…the bass is another genius behind it all: maybe Zach (going by the Andy Fraser song) is a fan of the superbly expressive playing in Free that was partly to fill in for Kossoff who famously didn’t like chords, but in reality was a natural gift that added so much. Set Me Free isn’t the brilliant Sweet song: it’s another Free infused beauty…slow and solid blues with a lovely picked riff and, possibly, TJ’s best vocal on the album and a lovely solo too…love it!
The big mistake is to think this band as a Skynyrd clone: far from it, they have a distinct and distinctive sound of their own that owes as much to British blues of the 70s as the Souther bands. It’s a heady blend that works very well indeed and every track may be immediate but I would advise numerous listens to appreciate the many layered approach. The bass in particular is worth isolating, although every member of this original quintet contribute fully to the very pleasurable whole.
Can We Get A Witness is released on October 15th via Mascot Records. A vinyl edition of the album, with bonus track “Better Run From The Beast,” will be out November 26th.
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws – – a Wonderful album full of refreshing adaptations of the expected Southern Rock as they seamlessly blend heavy rock and blues into that genre to great effect.
Take It Slow
Lend A Hand*
So You Wanna Change The World*
Looking For An Old Friend*
Spirit Of A Workin’ Man*
Be Good To Yourself
Half Glass Woman
Dancin’ With The Devil
Can I Get A Witness
Walk Tall Man
Set Me Free*
* featured on the EP
TJ Lyle: vocals, harmonica, piano
Riley Couzzourt: guitar
Logan Tolbert: guitar
Zach Everett: bass, vocals, keyboards
Bristol Perry: drums
Recorded at Barrick Recording Studio in Glasgow, USA (not Scotland)
(iTunes decided that fellow Geordie, Georgie Fame would join me with a blues song he recorded live at Ronnie Scott’s. His trademark keyboard work and a great band behind him make this a blues song to savour.)